On the border of the Emilia-Romagna and the republic of San Marino sits Les Marches, one of the 20 Italian regions. The name comes from the medieval March of Ancona, originating from the word “marca.”
Les Marches is known for shoemaking, a tradition that is still apparent there. It is situated between the Appennines mountain range and the Adriatic Sea, giving this region access to incredible skiing excursions on one end, and beautiful beaches for tanning and relaxing on the other. The area itself is abundant with hills and winding roads through cliffs and magnificent countryside. The coastline bordering the Adriatic is mainly flat except for Monte Conero, the only coastal high point on this sea. Like many places in this region, it is part of a state park and is a ecological protected area including trails and various historical sites.
As mentioned, Les Marches is home to an abundance of nature parks, reserves, and ecological protected sites. The Sibillini National Park is in the Southwest Corner and is the largest and probably most famous. At the center of the park is Monte Vettore, the highest mountain peak in the region. It offers stunning views of the area and encompasses Italy in its entirety. This incredible natural reserve also is home to some wild areas such as Gola dell’Infernaccio, “Hell’s Gorge,” and Pizzo del Diavolo, “Devil’s Beard,” giant rock walls and dramatic landscape worthy of the names. Aside from high elevations and apocalyptic-looking cliffs, the park also has plains, giving way to fields of flowers in the Spring and early Summer. The Piano Grande runs rampant with tulips, and other alpine flowers. Throughout the entire park, you can find wild strawberries and raspberries, buckthorn, lilies, and more!
The Conero National Park, mentioned before, is home to the highest elevation point on the Adriatic coastline. This park is full of unbelievable cliff views and thousands of rare species in the plant and bird families. Some delicious grapes used for wines are also found growing wildly through this stretch of land. No matter which park you venture to, be sure to check out the trekking excursions. You won’t want to miss even one spectacular view possible from the many reserves.
Aside from the preserved areas, Les Marches’ countrysides between charming cities and towns, are just as magnificent. Vast areas of vineyards and orchards cover the rolling hills speckled with farms and other large plantations throughout the region. The nature in Les Marches is something of dreams or storybooks. The region seems enchanted with all of the small towns nestled within these parks and fields of wild flowers and lush vegetation.
Les Marches allows you to discover histories through it’s cities of art medieval architecture. The presence of Italian Renaissance history is overwhelming in Palazzo Ducale, the historic center of the city of Urbino, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Castello di Gradara is located in the Medieval town of Gradara. The castle is very well-known, one of the most famous sites of Les Marches. It’s even more unique in the evening when the castle is lit from the below village. It’s famous for its presence in Dante’s Inferno, as the place here Paolo and Francesca kissed in Canto V. This town also offers the Sanctuary of Maria di Loreto, a major Catholic pilgrimage destination.
Ancona is probably one of the most famous cities in Les Marches. It’s an ancient port town, offering beautiful beach as well as magnificent Medieval churches. Worth mentioning is the amazing San Ciriaco cathedral, perched on an ancient Greek acropolis in this incredible town.
Pesaro is the place for classical music lovers. Every year, the town hosts the Rossini Opera Festival, which consists of two whole weeks of classical music engulfing the area. Another town on the radar for music lovers, or lovers of artisan craft, is Ascoli Piceno. This city is packed with violin makers workshops. Additionally it is home to Piazza del Popolo, in which you will find the Palazzo dei Capitani–a site to see with its immense tower full of battlements.
For small treat, head to Fano during its Carnival season, usually beginning in February or March. There are floats present for the event in which the people on board throw candies to the crowds of people.
Le Marches is a region of beauty and charm unlike any other. There is no shortage of things to do or see! It’s well-worth the visit during your trip to Italy and is right in the center, close to Tuscany, Umbria, and right below San Marino. It’s very easy to get to when you’re also experiencing other places throughout Italy. Safe travels!